Clematis virginiana also known as the Devil's Darning Needles and Virgin's Bower is a climbing vine native to the Southeastern United States. This vine attaches by delicate tendrils and therefore does not harm its supporting structure. It is attractive to bees and hummingbirds while being deer resistant due to its toxicity. The flowers on this vine bloom throughout the summer.

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A beautiful and common Clematis, it trails over fences and other shrubs along moist roadsides and riverbanks. The female flowers, with their feathery tails or plumes, give a hoary appearance and are especially showy in late summer. Lacking tendrils, the vine supports itself by means of twisted stems, or petioles, that wrap around other plants.


This plant is an aggressive seeder but if you so choose (to germinate your own), higher germination results from stored seeds sown indoors or in a cold frame than from seed sown directly outdoors after collection.

Stem cuttings that include at least 2 sets of leaves can be taken any time during the growing season. The fastest method is layering.

This specimen is a 15-20 ft., fine-texured vine, climbing by twisting leaf stalks. Profuse, axillary clusters of small, white flowers are followed by plume-like, feathery achenes. Trifoliate leaves are bright-green. It climbs over a fence row and atop the roof of a garage, with thousands of white flowers in the small town of Collins, Mississippi.


Hummingbirds and Bees are attracted to the plant in large numbers.

Ethnobotanical Medicinal Uses

An extract of the stems was used as a wash to induce strange dreams by the Iroquois. It is a hallucinogen. Aboriginals used this plant as medicine for many purposes. The Cherokee used an infusion of this with milkweed for backache. They also used it as an ingredient in ceremonial green corn medicine. An infusion of the root is taken for stomach trouble and nerves. An infusion taken from the root was used to kidney trouble by the Cherokee and the Iroquois. The Iroquois also used and infusion of the roots to treat venereal disease sores.


All parts. Severe pain in mouth if eaten; skin irritation if touched or inhaled. Symptoms include burning sensation of mouth and mouth ulcers. Skin redness and burning sensation is minor and lasts only a few minutes. Toxic Principle: Anemonin. Anemonin is a compound found in plants of the buttercup family.


Many (probably all) members of the genus Clematis are mildly poisonous to humans and animals because they reside in the order Ranunculales (Buttercup Family). There are two main toxins in the Devil's Darning Needles; ranunculin (a buttercup glycoside) and other glycosides, that can be found in all parts of the plant. The ranunculin causes severe pain and blistering in the mount if the plant is ingested, while the glycosides affect the cardiac system. Other symptoms include a burning sensation in the mount, excess salivation and vomiting.

When Clematis is extensively handled, it causes skin redness, along with a burning sensation in the skin, but this is usually minor and only lasts for a few minutes. Due to its unpleasant taste and aggressive reaction with skin and mucosa, cases of poisoning are rare.

Toxicity in Animals

All Clematis vines are mildly to moderately toxic to dogs, cats, and horses, usually those who are curious enough to take a bite. If the leaf is consumed, symptoms of poisoning include drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. Virgin's bower has a very pungent taste, which in most cases prevents animals from consuming enough to get poisoned.

Exposure to this plant and its flowers can also cause skin irritation. Ingestion and exposure are not considered life-threatening, but it is nevertheless advised to contact a veterinarian if your pet develops symptoms.

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Glycoside, any of a wide variety of naturally occurring substances in which a carbohydrate portion, consisting of one or more sugars or a uronic acid (i.e., a sugar acid), is combined with a hydroxy compound. The hydroxy compound, usually a non-sugar entity (aglycon), such as a derivative of phenol or an alcohol, may also be another carbohydrate, as in cellulose, glycogen, or starch, which consist of many glucose units.

Many glycosides occur in plants, often as flower and fruit pigments; for example, anthocyanins.

Various medicines, condiments, and dyes from plants occur as glycosides; of great value are the heart-stimulating glycosides of Digitalis and Strophanthus, members of a group known as cardiac glycosides. Several antibiotics are glycosides (e.g., streptomycin). Saponins, widely distributed in plants, are glycosides that lower the surface tension of water; saponin solutions have been used as cleansing agents.

Glycosides derived from glucuronic acid (the uronic acid of glucose) and steroids are constituents of normal animal urine. Compounds (nucleosides) derived from the partial breakdown of nucleic acids are also glycosides.